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That the work of holiness is gaining ground in this country is, we think, evident. The labors of those engaged in promoting it are meeting with some encouragement. Yet but little is done in comparison of what ought to be done. What is the reason?
One prominent reason is, that in most of the churches the people are taught that they can be saved without holiness. This is not done in so many words. That would startle the hearers. But the people are made to believe that they will go to Heaven, if they join the church and are loyal to it, even though they continue to live in sin. Men desire to gain advantages on the easiest terms. If two articles, in every respect of equal value, are offered for sale, the one for which the lowest price is asked is sold first. When people who love the world, its fashions, its associations, its honors, its pleasures, are assured that they can gain Heaven, by paying the preacher and supporting the church, and still hold on to their cherished sins, they naturally choose this course.
We must show that no one can be saved who is not so far made holy that he stops committing sin.
“He that committeth sin is of the devil.”—I John 3:8.
This we must insist on. And also
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.”—I John 3:9.
Those who are made to believe that they can be good Christians and at the same time live in sin do not desire to become holy. Why should they, if they can at the same time enjoy the pleasures of sin and reap the rewards of holiness? We must remove this delusion from the minds of the people. We must show that the popular religion of the day is not true Christianity. It takes courage to do this in a proper manner. It must not be done in a way to create the impression that we are making war upon the churches. This would stir up resistance.
There must be nothing belligerent or pharisaical in our manner. We must do it in the spirit in which Paul wrote of the carnal professors of his time.
“For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.”—Phil. 3:18, 19.
That this applies too generally to the members of popular churches, their pastors practically acknowledge, by getting up festivals and appealing to their appetites when they wish to raise money. There is a great difference in the effect between saying this in a harsh, censorious, upbraiding spirit, or saying it, as Paul did, with a tender heart, even weeping. It is a sad sight,—one to make angels weep,—to see pulpits and pews of professedly Christian churches filled with men and women who give the most unmistakable evidence of “minding earthly things,” of living in plain violation of the commands of God. But instead of crying “peace and safety” and representing to them that “if they go on they will finally get to Heaven,” but they “need the blessing of holiness to make them more useful,” we must show them tenderly but plainly from the word of God that the end of the course they are pursuing is destruction.
Where this is done in the Holy Ghost the work of holiness will go on in power. The people will be led to repent of their sins; and then go on “perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord.” They will get an experience that fills them with joy; and that will give them power over others.
But when in a church composed of backsliders and of those who never were converted, holiness is preached as a blessing that they may receive at once, by simply believing, the result is self-deception. Many profess entire holiness when at the utmost they have only obtained pardon. They are urged to profess the highest state of sanctification when they are in the lowest state of justification. And some even become the advocates of holiness when, according to the standard laid down in the Bible and in the M. E. Discipline, they are not fully awakened. The sad sight is witnessed of men preaching holiness who are so defiled by tobacco that the pure shrink from coming near them, and of women, waving their plumes and flaunting their jewelry professing to be saved to the uttermost! This makes sensible people mistrustful of the doctrine.
To promote the work of holiness then, we must not close our eyes to this state of things, and act as if it did not exist. A doctor never cures the cholera by treating it as if it were only a slight irregularity. We must acknowledge the desperate state of the case and apply the proper remedy. It will of course stir up conflict, but we must meet it in the name of Jesus.
It is cowardly and criminal for the advocates of holiness to encourage professors in self-delusion. It is treason to Christ to persuade those who know they love the world, that they are in a state of salvation—weak it may be—to be pitied and petted, when they need to break down before God and seek forgiveness. Let us do thorough work for God.
“Cursed be he that doeth the work of the LORD deceitfully.”—Jer. 48:10.
The great hindrance to the work of holiness on earth is man’s depravity. This creates obstacles of every conceivable kind. This exists everywhere, wherever man is found. There is no avoiding it. No locality can be found in which the people are naturally inclined to follow holiness. No people have ever yet been discovered who welcomed the pure, unadulterated truth of God, and set themselves to work in obedience to its requirements. To induce depraved men to seek holiness they must be drawn from above by the Holy Spirit. Without this supernatural aid, the natural opposition of man to holiness will never be overcome.
Then, to successfully preach holiness, something more is needed than a correct understanding of the doctrine, and to possess the ability to state it clearly and defend it with unanswerable arguments. These are important. To embrace the truth, people need to see the truth. It is unreasonable to require a man to believe that which he does not comprehend with at least some clearness. So that advocates of holiness should take pains to acquaint themselves with the doctrine. They should avail themselves of the help of those who can afford them help. They should be able to bring forth a plain text of the Scriptures in confirmation of every statement of doctrine which they make.
But above all other qualifications, holiness teachers need to speak under a baptism of the Holy Ghost. They should be divinely inspired. Their words should be in demonstration of the Spirit and in power. They should present the truth on fire. Without this, little more will be done than to convince the understanding. To move men to act, their hearts must be touched. Their consciences must be aroused. Argument alone will not do this. Noise will not do it. Quietness will not do it. The feelings of the speaker must be enlisted and warmed. Fire kindles fire. Life begets life. Then go before the people already warmed up, specially if you design to say plain, pointed truths, get your heart filled with love. Melted ore melts ore. If the people are dead, the necessity is all the greater for you to have life, and to have it more abundantly. You cannot impart what you do not possess.
Do you design to attend camp-meetings to help on the work of God?
Begin at once the needed reparation. Study those passages especially which speak of the work of the Spirit. Get thoroughly imbued with the idea of the great work the Holy Spirit can accomplish, if it is poured out upon the multitude. Read of the many who were pricked in the heart. Think of the improbable ones who were converted. The Holy Ghost has lost none of His power. He can still disturb Pharisees and awaken sinners, and stir up the lukewarm. What is needed to make camp-meetings a success, is the outpouring of the Spirit upon the people.
See how very few ever secure an outpouring of the Spirit on the many! When the wonderful results of the day of Pentecost were accomplished, there was in the large congregation but a small proportion of believers. But they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.
When duly impressed with the importance of having the Spirit, consider to whom it is promised, and on what easy conditions! The ignorant as well as the learned may be filled with the Spirit. There is one condition for all—obey God.
“And we are his witnesses of these things: and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.”—Acts 5:32.
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